Northern Ireland

Campaign to restore scrapped events fund

events cut meeting
Image caption More than 200 people attended the meeting at the Oh Yeah centre

More than 200 people have protested in Belfast against cuts in funding for cultural events in Northern Ireland.

A public meeting was held in the Oh Yeah centre as part of a campaign in support of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) events fund.

On Friday, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) said the £2.4m fund would be scrapped.

The fund helped more than 60 events, from Londonderry's Halloween carnival to the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival.

Adam Turkington, the director of Belfast's Culture Night, told the meeting that they needed "to make the argument that this sector makes economic sense".

Culture Night began six years ago with a turnout of 15,000 people and this year attracted 50,000 on to the streets of Belfast for the festivities, he said.

It benefitted from £30,000 of funding from the events fund in 2014.

Suzie McCullough of NITB said overseas investors are attracted to cities with popular events and a strong tourism sector, and there was a strong case for a dedicated events budget.

Kieran Gilmore of the Open House Festival, said the event had exceeded all expectations in the past year.

He told the meeting that funding regulations require a return of £3 for every £1 that is funded. In 2014, the Open House Festival returned £18 for every £1 of events funding, he said.

Ross Brown, a Green Party councillor in Belfast, said the cuts would have an effect on "the spirit of Belfast" and were "a big step backwards".

The Belfast Festival at Queens is not affected but one of its organisers, Richard Wakeley, said he would be telling MLAs who support his event that the scrapping of the fund will damage the arts sector throughout Northern Ireland.

"If you cut the fingers or cut the head, then the body will bleed out," he said.

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